On the same day the state received a B- in government transparency from a government watchdog, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed new legislation to create a new state council on open data.
The law replaces two standing executive orders and creates a 37-member council that includes all the state’s cabinet secretaries and department heads within the state government to ensure all of the state’s data be “machine readable and released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible and usable, including through the use of open data portals.”
The council will be led by the state’s secretary of information technology once it goes into effect.
The announcement came yesterday, the same day the U.S. Public Interest Research Group gave the state its B- grade, ranking it 23rd nationally when it comes to the state’s transparency website and how easy it is to use. That grade is slightly up from last year when Maryland received a C in the same study.
The report only analyzed openness online in terms of state spending, and did not look at other public records, such as campaign contributions or lobbying records. Nor did it look at the laws that govern public access to information, such as the Maryland Public Information Act.
“I would say that in general, Maryland is doing pretty well, but certainly could improve,” said Emily Scarr, director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, which worked with the U.S. PIRG on the report, in an interview with the Carroll County Times. “The two places that we should be improving are making tax spending more searchable for our tax payers and [providing] more information on government subsidy outcomes.”
The new council should certainly help that grade, one would think.
The legislation with some amendments had the strong support of the O’Malley administration and good government organizations such as Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the Sunlight Foundation, among others.